Regiment: 2/1st Hampshire Yeomanry (Carabiniers), attached to 15th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment
Date & place of birth: 16 March 1887 at Southampton
Date & place of death: 9 August 1918, aged 31, at Klijte, Flanders
George Wedderburn was a member of the long established scale-manufacturing family. He was killed four months after first seeing active service.
George Herbert Wedderburn was born on 16 March 1887 at 12 Bernard Street, Southampton, the eldest son of George Alexander Wedderburn (1856–1917) and his first wife Florence Ada née Cross (1860–1900).
George Alexander was the great-grandson of Robert Wedderburn (c.1762–c.1835), who was born in Jamaica to a Scottish father and a black slave. Known as “The Black Preacher”, he was an early anti-slavery advocate. His son, Jabez (c.1797–1880) established a scale manufacturing business at Oakley Street in Chelsea. His son Jabez (1827–1882) and grandson, also Jabez (1849–1915) continued the family business.
George Alexander was the brother of the youngest Jabez, and they decided to try their fortune away from London, and set up a scale-making business in Bridge Road, Woolston in 1881. By 1886, the partnership between the two brothers had been ended, and George was trading from 5 Richmond Street, Southampton.
He had married Florence Ada Cross, from Jersey, at St. Denys parish church on 14 December 1882, and their first child, Florence Louisa was born the following September. A second daughter, Madeleine, was born in May 1885 but died in November 1886, only 18 months old.
Following the birth of George Herbert in March 1887, the couple had at least a further three children: Harriet Maud, born March 1889, Lionel Alexander, born June 1891, and Frederick William, born July 1897.
At the 1891 census, George and Florence and their three children were living at 12 Bernard Street, Southampton, with a 15-year old servant, Kate Spender.
Florence died on 9 January 1900, aged 39, following which, in 1903 George married 36-year old Mary Anne Long.
George was educated at King Edward VI School between September 1896 and June 1902; in June 1900, when in the fourth form, he was a recipient of a prize in the annual prizegiving held at the Royal Pier.
At the 1901 census, George senior, now a widower, was still living at 12 Bernard Street, with his five children and an 18-year old servant, Agnes Kimber. Ten years later, George and Mary and the five children were at the same address. George Herbert, now aged 24, was employed in the family business as a scale maker.
On Good Friday 1914, George was walking on the Royal Pier when a boy fell into the water. George immediately jumped from the pier into the water and rescued the boy. For this act of bravery, he received the Royal Humane Society medal.
George Wedderburn never married.
George Alexander Wedderburn was initiated into The Lodge of Peace and Harmony No 462 on 17 January 1887, and continued his membership until his death on 9 February 1917.
George Herbert Wedderburn followed his father into the Lodge (now No 359) when he was initiated on 20 November 1916. On that same day, the Lodge also initiated 49-year old Richard Eagle, passed Harold Brazier to the Second Degree and raised Frederick Brown and Stanley Young to the Third Degree. (Stanley Young would be killed in a flying accident when serving with the Royal Flying Corps, on 23 December 1917.)
George’s service in the Army prevented him making any further Masonic progress.
On 27 February 1908, George volunteered to join the Hampshire Yeomanry (Carabiniers) in Southampton. Each summer for the next six years, George attended a two week training camp. Following the 1913 camp at Eastleigh, on 27 July 1913, George was promoted to Sergeant with the Signals Troop. At the outbreak of the war, George signed to agree to serve overseas if required.
On 3 April 1915, George was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 2/1st Hampshire Yeomanry (Carabiniers). The 2/1st Battalion was part of the 2/1st South Western Mounted Brigade based at Calne in Wiltshire. After a month at Canterbury, they spent the winter of 1915/16 at Maresfield in East Sussex, before moving to Tiptree in Essex in March.
On 2 April 1916, the first anniversary of his commission, George was promoted to Lieutenant. In July 1916, the battalion became part of the 2nd Cyclist Division and was converted to a Bicycle infantry unit in the 6th Cyclist Brigade.
In November 1916, the division was reorganised and the 2/1st Hampshire Yeomanry moved to Ipswich and merged with the 2/1st Berkshire Yeomanry to form the 11th (Hampshire and Berkshire) Yeomanry Cyclist Regiment in the 4th Cyclist Brigade. In February 1917, it was at Coltishall in Norfolk and briefly became part of the 5th (Hampshire and West Somerset) Yeomanry Cyclist Regiment in the 2nd Cyclist Brigade, before resuming its identity as the 2/1st Hampshire Yeomanry in March 1917.
From October 1917 onwards, the battalion was based at Reepham in Norfolk. On 25 December, George was appointed as a company commander and received a temporary promotion to Captain.
On 27 September 1917, a draft of 12 officers and 307 men from the 1/1st Hampshire Yeomanry were absorbed into the 15th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment, followed by a further 119 other ranks on 8 October. Following this, the battalion was redesignated the 15th (Hampshire Carabiniers) Battalion, Hampshire Regiment.
On 3 April 1918, George Wedderburn was seconded from the 2/1st Hampshire Yeomanry to the 15th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment and reverted to the rank of Lieutenant. He was sent to Belgium to join up with the battalion at Poperinge, where the battalion had just arrived after a month of heavy fighting in France. After a few days’ rest, they were back in the front line in the Ypres salient, without being involved in any serious action.
At the end of June, the battalion marched to La Clytte (Klijte) near Kemmel, to relieve a French regiment, where they occupied a pronounced salient in the front line. During July, the battalion suffered the loss of one officer and 14 men killed, with 55 wounded, as both sides undertook raids on each other’s defences.
Death and commemoration
On 9 August 1918, the 15th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment was instructed to straighten the salient at La Clytte. The battalion quickly gained their first objectives on the right and centre but encountered fierce resistance on the left resulting in heavy casualties. At the end of the day’s fighting, the line had been consolidated but with the loss of four officers (including Lieutenant George Wedderburn) and 21 men killed, and 4 officers and 114 men wounded or missing.
Killed alongside George was Captain John Gunner, who had played first class cricket for Hampshire in 1906–1907.
George is also commemorated on the Cenotaph in Southampton’s Watts (West) Park and on the King Edward VI School War Memorial.
He is also probably the G. Wedderburn commemorated on the War Memorial at Stockwell in south London, although his connection with that suburb is not known. (No other G. Wedderburn is listed by the CWGC.)
On 26 November 1918, three months after his death, George Wedderburn was Gazetted as Captain with the Hampshire Yeomanry, backdated to 3 April 1918, the day on which he was seconded to the 15th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment.
Other family members
George’s younger brothers, Lionel and Frederick, both served (and survived) as privates with the Hampshire Regiment during the First World War.
1881 England Census
1891 England Census
1901 England Census
1911 England Census
Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901–1929
British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914̅–1920
National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858–1966
Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914–1919
United Grand Lodge of England Freemason Membership Records, 1751–1921
WWI Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914–1920
Atkinson, C.T. The Royal Hampshire Regiment 1914-1918, pp. 242, 318-360
Bitterne Local History Society: List of Names on the Cenotaph
Bournemouth Graphic: 9 April 1915. Promotion for Local Soldier
Evening News (Portsmouth): 9 June 1916. Hampshire Commissions
Find a Grave: Lieut George Herbert Wedderburn
Great War Forum: Lieutenant George Herbert Wedderburn. Hampshire Yeomanry.
23 November 1881. Classified Advertisements
17 January 1885. Charges Against the Inspector of Weights & Measures
9 September 1899. Grammar School Examination Results
9 June 1900. The Grammar School. Prize Distribution at Southampton
22 September 1900. King Edward VI Grammar School Examination Results
10 April 1915. Hants Yeomanry
9 June 1923. Grammar School. Old Boys War Memorial
Hampshire Telegraph: 9 April 1915. Armed Forces News
Herbert History: Jabez Wedderburn
King Edward VI School Southampton: Records of the War 1914-18
The London WW1 Memorial: George Herbert Wedderburn
Masonic Roll of Honour: Lieutenant George Herbert Wedderburn
The National Archives:
National Library of Scotland: The Wedderburn Book
Stockwell War Memorial: G. Wedderburn
War Office: 27 August 1918. Weekly Casualty List
Wikipedia: Hampshire Yeomanry
Tyne Cot Memorial: Find a Grave